Creating NPC’s for a roleplaying campaign can be a fun mental exercise. You never know when the NPC you breathe life into will inspire a future PC, a campaign, or even an entire setting – all built off the concept of one character. I thought today we’d do our first Dossier Deck character of 2021 by opening the fourth and final deck from the original kickstarter: Orcs & Goblins. For those unfamiliar, SkeletonKey produced four Dossier decks – Commoners, Merchants, Mages and Orcs & Goblins. Each deck has appearance, story hook and trait cards. You shuffle each card type, draw one of each, and bam, you get your NPC. While each deck is fully fleshed out in itself, you can mix all four decks together for maximum versatility, and they can be easily resorted thanks to the deck icons in the bottom corner of each card.
Today we’re solely using cards from the Orcs & Goblins deck. Our shuffle has yielded:
- Appearance: Ombarr Ruthnok – a senior orc in good health, with solvered hair
- Traits: Nervous tics and a touch of pyromania – my kinda guy.
- Story Hook: Family Jewel/All-Seeing Eye. Ombarr has been charged with the safekeeping of an orb that’s being sought for its magical properties.
So let’s start with the appearance. Orcs are often portrayed as a more barbaric culture, but Ombarr’s silver hair suggests that he’s already lived much longer than the stereotypical lifespan. The card state that he’s still healthy and strong, so we’ve got a senior orc who can still brawler. I’m put in mind of the Silver Horde from the Discworld books – a character who, by all rights, should have died a dozen times over but has instead defeated all-comers and, despite the ravages of time, can still hold his own. Ombarr was likely one hell of a brawler, and thus commands the respect and admiration of his clan…
… or does he? His age is clearly an anomaly, and many a young buck might think that killing the old fool will be their path to power within the tribe. After constant attempts on his life by eager youth, Ombarr comes to see that his presence in the clan is doing more harm than good. The strapping youth continue to challenge him, forcing him to kill – or in the very least, break – them. Even in a large tribe numbering hundreds, it will only be a matter of time before the pile of dead challengers translates to a weakening of the clan as a whole, as there are less and less surviving orc youth to fill the ranks of the battle-ready. Ombarr isn’t ready to lay down and die, but for the good of the clan, he must remove himself lest the clan suffer as a whole.
Roll over the story hooks. An inner circle of confidants is aware of his plan to enter self-imposed exile. One of them has, in their possession, a crystal orb. It’s been with the clan for generations, but only a select few have known of its existence. Aware of its mystical properties, the matriarch of the clan has used the orb to spy on clan enemies in the past, advising the warbands on when and where to strike. Now she’s seen in the orb that a dangerous enemy has peered back through the orb at her, and that they’re coming for it. While the orb has been of great use to the clan, it is now more dangerous than it is useful. Wrapping the orb in cloth embroidered with warding runes, she entrusts the bundle to Ombarr and instructs him to never remove It from its binding, to guard it until he can find a suitably remote place to hide it from the eyes of the seekers forever.
Now burdened with solemn duty, Ombarr leaves the clan and travels for months before he finally succumbs to temptation and unwraps a portion of the package and sees the crystal orb within. Not skilled in its use, Ombarr is puzzled by the crystal before an image flashes across its surface. The clan matriarch appears, collapsed on the floor in her tent, clutching at her throat as blood seeps between her fingers. The image swims as if looking around the room, before spinning around to show a masked face, staring directly at Ombarr. Eyebrows furrow as the assassin realizes the prize he seeks is not here.
Ombarr swiftly covers the orb once more, masking its presence from the assassin’s gaze.
Now our veteran greenskin has a significant problem. His clan is in danger – the matriarch may not have been the only casualty, but even if she was, the power vacuum left will cause trouble. He is in danger – the assassin is looking for the orb, and knows he has it. Was the assassin able to glean enough information from the brief glimpse to know where he is? Ombarr needs to move, but does he look to return to the tribe or to distance himself further? The assassin was able to get through the clan’s defenses ot access the matriarch; will Ombarr be able to stop the assassin, protect the orb, by himself? Should he look for allies to help protect himself, or perhaps should he entrust the orb to someone else to confuse the assassin’s efforts? What is more important – the clan, his own life, safeguarding the orb or keeping it out of the assassin’s hands?
And there’s the start of your adventure. Admittedly, the Traits card didn’t really play into this one, but if Ombarr turns up in a campaign – likely around a fire of some sort – there’ll be roleplaying opportunities where his tapping can get on someone’s nerves, and he can accidentally set their cloak on fire or something. Ombarr could easily be an ally or an enemy, and the orb itself could be the focus of an entire campaign. Think of it as being treated the way Frodo used the One Ring. If it’s used, it could alert the assassin of its location and current bearer. Just what lengths will the players go to keep it out of the assassin’s hands?
Dossier Decks are available from SkeletonKey through their website, and can be purchased as physical decks, PDF’s, or bundled as both. Who knows what inspiration you’ll find within? Heck, draw random cards to make your next PC!